Are You Willing?: What it takes to make change happen

Have you ever found yourself stuck at a dead-end job that you hate? What about in a toxic relationship where neither partner wants to work on his/her problems? I’m sure everyone has struggled with diet or nutrition in one way or another. My point is, we all struggle to make changes that take effort.

The key phrase of that last statement is “that takes effort.” It is easy to make a change when the change itself is easy to do or is pleasurable. For example, it is easy to START eating cheesecake because it is pleasurable, but it is difficult to stop eating it once you have started. These are both changes – starting and stopping, yet one is so much easier than the other. Let’s look at a real-life example.

You want to start a fitness program – let’s say you decide to work out twice a week at your local gym every morning before work. In order to make this change, you will have to:

Sign up for a membership

Probably buy gym clothes and possibly a water bottle or other supplies

Wake up earlier

Drive to the gym

Actually do something while you’re there

That’s a lot of stuff! Now let’s look at what we have to do if we do not make that change:

Continue with your basic routine

Well, that was easy. Now let’s pretend you have made all that effort of the change and you’re doing great, go you!  All of a sudden, your child is sick, and you have to skip the gym because you’re taking care of her.  You suddenly realize what it feels like to not work out twice a week again. Here’s a look at what you would experience if you chose to make a change and NOT stick with it:

Sign up for membership

Buy gym clothes and supplies

Wake up earlier

Drive to the gym

Actually do something while you’re there

Cancel gym membership

Suddenly have more spare time

Spend more time with kids in the morning

Sleep in

Save money from canceled gym membership

Wow, this is getting complex. In this last example, you will see that the first 5 steps are a difficult change to make, so wouldn’t you think that once you made those changes, you would stick with them? Yes, you would think that, however, the last 4 steps will often feel worth the wasted time and effort of the first 5. Well then, how do us fitness professionals ever expect anyone to stick with a workout routine?

The answer is simple. You have to be WILLING.  We all know by now that there are countless benefits to exercise. (Or eating healthy, or having good relationships, or not smoking, or….). But there are also countless excuses that could be given of why they CAN’T or WON’T. No matter where you are trying to make a change in your life, you have to ask yourself: “Am I willing?”  Or on the other side, “Am I NOT willing?”

Am I willing to put in the mounds of effort it will take to improve my relationship with my wife or husband? Am I willing to pass on the birthday cake to maintain my weight loss goals? Am I willing to sacrifice time with my family to get myself to the gym?

Am I NOT willing to continue to be on the verge of diabetes? Am I NOT willing to continue hating my job? Am I NOT willing to let my co-worker keep putting me down?

Am I willing?

Every time you are faced with a decision to make a change, first ask yourself, “Am I willing…?” Think about all of the effort that will be required to make that change. Think about what you are NOT willing to do. Write it down. Make a list so you know what to expect.

Most people think it just takes willpower to make changes in our lives. Willpower is defined as “control exerted to do something or restrain impulses.” It takes more than just willpower to actually make the change.  It takes a willingness to produce that willpower. If it isn’t important enough to you in this moment, you won’t make the change. If it isn’t easy or convenient enough, you won’t make the change.

The example sentence below the definition of willpower says, “most of our bad habits are due to laziness or lack of willpower.” I have to disagree.  It isn’t that we are lazy or don’t have willpower. It is simply because we are not WILLING to make THAT particular change RIGHT NOW. We might be very inclined to make a different change because it holds more value or it is more important to us. Or, we might even be able to make that change in 3 years or 7 years or even just a few months.

What if I am not willing?

After asking yourself the question, you realize you are not willing to do what it takes to make the change.

What now? Am I screwed? No, my friend, you are not screwed. There is help for you, too!

You must have thought about making this particular change for SOME reason. Whether you are unhappy with someone or something, you have health concerns, etc. you didn’t just pull the idea out of your butt – something urged you to come up with it.

Now, get a piece of paper and a pen. Now write down your reasons. Think of as many reasons as you can why you should make that change. Next, draw a line. Now write down as many excuses for not making this change as you can. Now, it’s time to make an imaginary action plan. One you don’t even plan on following through right now.  On the same piece of paper, create a numbered list of the action steps it would take for you to make this change. Next, I want you to create a numbered list of all of the advantages or benefits of making this change. Lastly, read over the paper one time, then fold it up and put it away in a drawer that you use.

Why am I doing all this?

This whole task should take you about 10 minutes to complete. Make the time.  Get off the internet or your phone for 10 minutes and you’ll notice that the time is there. I want you to make this list for your future self. You already decided that you are not willing RIGHT NOW to make this change, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be in the future. Now you already have your work set out for you so when you decide it’s time, it will be EASIER.

You are placing the paper in a drawer that you use so it is not out in the open and in the way (at risk of being thrown away) but it is not hidden in a secret place where you will never see it again.  You will see it at least weekly if not daily. You choose to take it out and read it again any time you like. When you are willing, you will know, and you will have your action plan ready.

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